/kway"chow", -choh"/; Chin. /gway"joh"/, n. Older Spelling.

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Chinese (Wade-Giles)  Kuei-chou,  (Pinyin)  Guizhou,  

      sheng (province) of southwestern China. It is bounded on the north by Szechwan, on the east by Hunan, on the south by the Chuang Autonomous Region of Kwangsi, and on the west by Yunnan. Kweichow measures more than 350 miles (560 kilometres) from east to west and about 320 miles from north to south. It has an area of 68,000 square miles (176,100 square kilometres). The provincial capital is centrally located at Kuei-yang.

      Kweichow has the frontier character of other southwestern plateau lands: rough topography, difficult communication and consequent isolation, and many ethnic minority groups. It has long been considered one of China's poorest and most disadvantaged provinces, as characterized by the folk poem: “The sky is not three days clear; the land is not level for three li (2,115 feet, or 645 metres); the people don't have three cents.”

Physical and human geography

The land
      Kweichow is part of an old eroded plateau, variously known as the Kweichow Plateau (Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau) or Yunkwei Plateau, which connects with plateau areas in Yunnan. Situated between the Plateau of Tibet and the hilly regions of Hunan and Kwangsi, the plateau forms part of a continuously ascending profile of the southwest, its altitude increasing from about 2,300 feet in eastern Kweichow to about 6,600 feet in the west. The Szechwan Basin to the north and the Kwangsi Basin to the south are both the results of faulting. The entire terrain of Kweichow thus slopes at a steep angle from the centre toward the north, east, and south. In areas adjacent to Szechwan and Hunan in the north and east, the elevation is about 2,300 feet, while the province's southern slopes descend 1,600–2,000 feet into Kwangsi. Accordingly, rivers in the province flow in three directions, north, east, and south.

      The plateau, which is mostly of limestone and basalt, has undergone complicated and extensive folding, faulting, and stream erosion and consequently has abrupt relief, an example of which is the famous Huang-kuo-shu Waterfall near An-shun in the southwest. Incised valleys, steep gorges, and cliffs are very common. In the limestone areas the landscape is karstic (characterized by precipitous slopes, abrupt, protuberant mountains, caverns, and subterranean streams). Only the anticline (upfold of stratified rock) and syncline (downfold of stratified rock) of the plateau in central Kweichow are broad and relatively flat.

Drainage and soils
      Most of the rivers in Kweichow are the upper streams of large rivers, such as the Yangtze and the Hsi. The abrupt change of gradient, the great fluctuation in the flow volumes, and the many rapids and reefs make them unsuitable for navigation, though they have enormous hydroelectric power potential.

      Because of the high humidity, a yellow soil with a yellowish-brown subsoil originated from sandstone, shale, and clay constitutes the largest area in the province. In the limestone area in the south there are broad areas of red soil. In the west the red soils are originated from basalt and sandstone and developed under a relatively drier climate.

      Kweichow enjoys a mild climate with warm summers and mild winters. Kuei-yang has a mean July temperature of about 76° F (24° C), lower than that of all other cities to the east on the same latitude. This is due to its high altitude and the cloudiness of the summer months. In winter, cold air from Siberia cannot easily reach Kweichow because of the barrier effect of the Tsinling Mountains to the north of the Szechwan Basin. In spite of its high altitude, Kweichow thus has few snowy days and even fewer freezing days. The mean January temperature at Kuei-yang is about 41° F (5° C).

      Rainfall is fairly uniform and plentiful, with an annual average of 31–51 inches (787–1,295 millimetres), decreasing toward the north and west. The southern and eastern parts of Kweichow are open to the influence of the moist maritime air mass in summer. For the same reason, there is a summer maximum in rainfall, averaging 45 percent of the annual total. About 25 percent falls in spring and 23 percent in autumn. Typically, the province has high relative humidity, lengthy cloudy and rainy days, and little sunshine. The capital, Kuei-yang (Guiyang), has more than 260 rainy and cloudy days in an average year. Most of the precipitation results from frontal activity, though some is a result of convection or condensation.

Plant and animal life
      Because of the steep gradient and the exposure of limestone, wasteland accounts for nearly half of the total area. Yet part of the province's natural wealth lies in its forests. The plateau surface is mostly dry and barren, but the peripheral valleys have rich and valuable woodlands. About one-tenth of the land area is under natural forest. There are four main forested areas: the drainage areas of the Ch'ing-shui River in the east, the Jung River in the southeast, the Nan-p'an and Pei-p'an rivers in the southwest, and the Ta-lou Mountains in the north.

      The forests of the northern valleys, still among the most important in China, consist chiefly of conifers and other trees, such as the tung tree, lacquer tree, camellia, birch, maple, pine, and fir. Forests in the southeast produce camphor, banyan tree, and other broad-leaved varieties. Trees of the southern subtropical valleys typically include willow, cedar, bamboo, and various species of pine and fir. Oak, Yunnan pine, Hua-shan pine, and camphor are grown in the west near Yunnan. Cedar, cypress, poplar, and palm trees are also found in the province.

      In addition to domesticated animals, such as buffalo, horses, donkeys, asses, and pigs, the province's fauna includes leopards, otters, foxes, badgers, tigers, and squirrels. In most of the larger rivers carp and savoury fish are abundant.

The people
      About three-fourths of the province's population is Han (Chinese). Non-Han tribesmen account for the remainder. An ethnic frontier, Kweichow has a large number of minority peoples. At least 30 different groups have been identified. Of these the most important are the Miao, the Puyi, the Yi, the Tung, the Shui, and the Chuang. All of the minority groups intermingle with Han people. Only at the low hsiang, or village level, can one find any exclusive racial grouping. Generally, very few minority people live in northern Kweichow, particularly in areas north of the Wu River. The Miao are mainly found in southeastern Kweichow, especially in the drainage area of Ch'ing-shui River and in the Miao Mountains. Most of the Puyi (Buyei) live in south central and southwestern Kweichow in the P'an River drainage area, including the suburbs of Kuei-yang. The Tung (Dong) are found mainly in the southeastern areas adjacent to Hunan and the Chuang Autonomous Region of Kwangsi. The Shui concentrate in southern Kweichow, around San-tu and Li-po, while the Yi, who once were rulers of this frontier region, are scattered in western Kweichow. The Hui (Chinese Muslims) in Kweichow migrated there from Yunnan in the late Ch'ing dynasty after the defeat of a local rebellion. They are found chiefly in towns and cities along the main lines of communication in western and southern Kweichow, especially in Wei-ning.

      Most of the population is rural, and agriculture is the chief occupation. Rice cultivators dominate the peripheral valleys of the plateau. On the plateau itself, the Miao practice a more primitive form of agriculture, growing subsistence upland crops. Most of the Puyi live on level lands in the valleys and cultivate rice. While the Tung are experienced lowland rice cultivators, they are also skillful in forestry and in growing upland crops. The Shui, living together in large families and tribes, are rice cultivators as well. In addition to growing upland crops, the Yi undertake animal husbandry.

      There are few cities in Kweichow. Kuei-yang is the most important, although larger and more populous is Liu-p'an-shui, a municipality created by combining the Liu-chih, Pan-hsien, and Shui-ch'eng special districts in Kweichow's coal-rich west. Most of the other cities are the seats of government and are the economic and communications centres for the various regions of the province.

      Chinese is the common language of the Han and the Hui in Kweichow, Mandarin being spoken almost exclusively by the former group. Among other minority peoples, only the Miao, Chuang, Yi, and Puyi have their own languages. The languages of the Puyi, Shui, Tung, and Chuang are Tai languages. Those of the Miao and the Yao belong to the Miao-Yao group, and that of the Yi to the Tibeto-Burman group.

      Kweichow has rich mineral resources. Its most widespread metallic mineral is mercury, reserves of which are large; there are also small deposits of manganese, zinc, lead, antimony, aluminum, copper, iron, and gold. Its most nonmetallic minerals include coal, petroleum, oil shale, phosphate, gypsum, arsenic, limestone, and fluorite. Extractive industries are consequently very important in Kweichow.

      Most of the cultivated area of Kweichow is under grain crops, the most important of which is rice. Corn (maize) is grown chiefly in eastern Kweichow. Other food crops include wheat, barley, sweet potatoes, potatoes, oats, and broad beans. Increasingly more of the cultivated area is under industrial crops, of which the most important is rapeseed, followed by tobacco, peanuts (groundnuts), sugarcane, jute, tea, sugar beets, hemp, and sesame. Kweichow is also known for its production of mao-tai liquor, made from wheat and kaoliang.

      Timber and other forestry products are plentiful. Kweichow ranks among the leading provinces in the production of raw lacquer and tung oil. Other important forestry products include camellia oil, cypress oil, gallnut extract, lichens, and various medicinal herbs.

      With a sufficient local supply of raw material and fuel and an expanding market in southwestern China, an iron and steel industry has been developed in Kweichow; machinery manufacturing has also been established, primarily for the production of mining machinery, agricultural and irrigation equipment, steel-rolling machines, and steel-smelting and other smelting equipment. With its abundant water resources, the province has developed numerous small hydroelectric facilities. The local supply of phosphate and other raw materials has given rise to a chemical industry that produces chemical fertilizers, soda acid, and other chemicals; petrochemicals are also made. The textile industry has grown significantly. Based on good timber resources, paper mills are found in several cities.

      Kuei-yang (Guiyang) is the most important industrial centre of the province, producing a wide variety of heavy and light industrial goods. Other major centres include Tsun-i (Zunyi), which has a considerable amount of heavy industry and is also the focus of silk textile production, and the municipality of Liu-p'an-shui, with its coal-based extractive and other heavy industries.

      River transportation is of little importance in Kweichow due to the presence of reefs and rapids, although the Wu River is a prosperous waterway. Several of the province's other rivers are partially navigable. Kweichow's highways are relatively well-developed. Since 1958 all counties have been connected by roads, the majority of which have all-weather surfaces. Prior to the completion of the railway from Kweichow to Kwangsi in 1959, the Kweichow–Kwangsi highway was the principal freight and passenger route to Kwangtung and Kwangsi and to central and east China. Since then, railway lines have been extended to Yunnan, Szechwan, and Hunan.

Administration and social conditions
      Administratively, Kweichow is divided into two prefecture-level municipalities (shih), four prefectures (t'i-ch'ü), and three autonomous prefectures (tzu-chih-chou). These are further divided into counties (hsien), autonomous counties (tzu-chih-hsien), and county-level municipalities (shih).

      Kweichow was in turmoil during the most violent phase (1967–69) of the Cultural Revolution. Although Revolutionary Committees were established in most major cities, local military units maintained order and stability. In May 1971 the Kweichow Provincial Party Committee was reestablished, and in 1980–81 the Revolutionary Committees were abolished and replaced with People's Governments and People's Congresses.

      Kweichow has one of the highest rates of illiteracy in China, especially among its many minority peoples. Nonetheless, there are a number of institutions of higher learning in the province, including Kweichow University, Kuei-yang Medical College, Kweichow Agricultural Institute (founded in 1939), the Kuei-yang Nationalities Institute (for training members of ethnic minority groups), and Kweichow Chinese Medical College. The province also has some 200 natural science institutes.

Health and welfare
      Since 1949 great strides have been made in public health, although Kweichow lags behind most of the rest of China in such areas as life expectancy and the eradication of endemic diseases. Several hundred health stations, mother-and-child-care centres, and maternity centres have been established. Health-work teams have also been established, and larger numbers of medical personnel have been trained and organized.

Cultural life
      The minority peoples in Kweichow are among the most artistic and musical in China. The Han also have a long and mixed cultural background. Various types of folk dramas with varying degrees of elaboration, some of which are combined with folk dances, are popular among different nationalities in different areas. Some of the Han folk dramas, hua teng (“flower lantern”) in northern Kweichow and ti-hsi (“floor plays”) in southern Kweichow, are also popular among the minority groups. Buffalo fighting is part of the festival activity over the New Year, especially among the Miao, Yao, and Chuang peoples. The Miao often sing of their revolutionary history and heroes, and both the Miao and the Tung folk songs are well known. Embroidery and paper cutting are both important forms of folk art among all minority peoples. The Puyi and Ch'i-lao are particularly known for their batik, the Miao and Puyi for their intricate, coloured cross-stitch work, and the Miao for their heavy silver ornaments.

      Although the area has been known to the Chinese since time immemorial, Kweichow came under large-scale Chinese influence only in the modern era, particularly during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), when it was made a province. The colonization policy of the Ming and Ch'ing dynasties (Qing dynasty) encouraged a large number of Chinese immigrants from Hunan, Kiangsi, and Szechwan to move into the eastern, northern, and central parts of Kweichow.

      During the Ch'ing dynasty (1644–1911/12), when the government decided to replace local chiefs by officials appointed by the central government, struggles broke out between the minorities, especially the Miao, and the Han. Rebellions and suppressions were so common that there was a saying, “a riot every 30 years and a major rebellion every 60 years.” In 1726 at the Battle of Mount Lei-kung, more than 10,000 Miao were beheaded and more than 400,000 starved to death. The Pan-chiang Riot of 1797 was said to have been started by the Puyi people, and thousands of them were either burned to death or beheaded. The most important popular revolt against the central government was one led by Chang Hsiu-mei, a Miao, in 1854. He and his followers united with the Taiping revolutionaries, and the joint army with a centralized command that was organized soon controlled eastern and southern Kweichow and won numerous victories under the Miao leaders Yen Ta-wu and Pa Ta-tu. When the Miao were eventually defeated in 1871, however, countless numbers of them were massacred. The most recent revolt, known as the Ch'ien Tung (eastern Kweichow) Incident, occurred between 1941 and 1944 as a result of exploitation and suppression by the warlord Wu T'ing-chang. Bitter struggles between the Miao and Wu's armies went on until 1944.

Chi-Keung Leung Robert Lee Suettinger

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Universalium. 2010.

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